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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Thirty days of creative abandon

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.


Tomorrow is the start of NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s an annual worldwide event in which tens of thousands of people commit to writing 50,000 words during the month of November.

To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to write about 1,700 words per day. That’s not a huge amount, but you need to keep it up for thirty straight days. Like running a marathon or climbing a mountain, writing a novel is a major accomplishment that’s doable if you put your mind to it.

I’ve started (and finished!) the event six times, and liked it so much that I joined the board of directors of the nonprofit organization that runs NaNoWriMo in 2011. If you’ve ever promised yourself that one day you’d like to try writing a novel—as I did—maybe this is the year to finally make it happen.

Every year I hear from some people who say, “But I don’t think my novel is ever going to be published—so why should I even write it?” Why do pick-up basketball players play, knowing they’ll never make the NBA? Why do people who will never have their art exhibited in a museum paint pictures?

Sure, it’s nice to publish novels—I hope to do that sometime myself—but it’s not the point. Unlocking your creativity is, and I’m not just using a marketing buzzphrase when I say that. The act of writing every day, of inventing characters and situations and thinking about what you like about your favorite books and movies and assembling plots and all the rest… it can change how you feel about yourself and alter your relationship with the entertainment you consume.

In addition, NaNoWriMo is about community. There are online support forums, of course, but all around the world there are local groups who meet regularly during the month of November for “write-ins.”

NaNoWriMo is absolutely free, (though of course your donations are appreciated.)

As for me, I write my novels in Scrivener, an excellent program for organizing and writing complex projects that’s also a NaNoWriMo sponsor. Another excellent program I own, Highland, is on sale for NaNoWriMo and also a fun writing tool.

But truth be told, you can write in any app you want. Your creativity is what matters, whether you’re writing in Word or TextEdit or Pages or BBEdit or Google Docs. Give it a try.

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